“I am a Black woman / the music of my song / some sweet arpeggio of tears / and I / can be heard humming in the night.”
Mari Evans was an influential Black poet and activist who was a leading figure in the Black Arts Movement in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
I am a Black Woman (1970) was her second collection of poems, coverings subjects such as racism, the Civil Rights Movement, and Black pride.
In “status symbol,” the speaker comments on their new “status” as “the New Negro”: “the result of / President Lincoln / World War 1 / and Paris / the / Red Ball Express / white drinking fountains / sitdowns and / sit-ins …”
In “Vive Noir!” the speaker declares, “i / am going to rise / en masse / from Inner City,” and in “Speak the truth to the People,” “A free mind is ready for other things / To BUILD Black schools / To BUILD Black children / To BUILD Black minds / To BUILD Black love / to BUILD Black impregnability / To BUILD a strong Black Nation / To BUILD.”
Evans also edited Black Women Writers (1950–1980): A Critical Evaluation (1984) in which writers such as Maya Angelou, Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez and others reflect on their work.
Evans died in 2017.
If you enjoyed I am a Black Woman, we suggest these Ohio side trips: